hen it became known that Barcelona would be without star player Lionel Messi for three weeks, coach Ernesto Valverde made it clear that the collective group would need to come together to ensure results and performances do not suffer without their Argentine magician.
He initially gave a chance to Ousmane Dembele, however, the Frenchman was indifferent and too individualistic against Sevilla and lost his starting berth against Inter in the Champions League.
Valverde and his responses about Coutinho and Dembélé
The beneficiary was Rafinha Alcantara, who responded with a solid display and a goal against the Italians.
Since the European clash, it has been revealed that the ex-Borussia Dortmund player has once again left his timekeeping skills to be desired.
Dembele arrived half an hour late to the team meeting before the Inter match.
When Valverde was asked about this in his press conference on Saturday, he skirted around the issue and chose to focus on the Frenchman’s footballing virtues instead.
“Arriving late one day has no importance,” he said.
“I’m focused on the sporting aspect. He arrived late the other day?
“I don’t know, he was there when I gave the talk.
“We have to help Dembele, he’s young but we also demand a lot from him.”
Valverde also sent a message to the Frenchman in the build up to the Inter game, implying that he will need to do more to regain a starting spot in the Barcelonateam.
“Everyone can lose the ball, the question is what you do after losing it,” he intimated.
Another player who needs to up his game in Messi‘s absence is Philippe Coutinho.
Unlike Dembele, the Brazilian’s place in the Blaugrana‘s starting line-up is not in immediate danger, however, he was the least involved attacker against Inter.
Asked about this in his press conference, Valverde told the media that he is happy with the playmaker but left a clear message for the 26-year-old.
“Coutinho did take a step forward without Messi against Inter,” he explained.
“He is a constant threat with his shot, he can appear at any moment, he can play between the lines.
“But we know that he can still offer us more.”
Clearly, the Barcelona coach knows that the most expensive signing in the club’s history can improve while Messi is on the sidelines.
Both Coutinho and Dembele should take a leaf out of Luis Suarez‘s book after the Uruguayan shone against Inter with an excellent display, despite not scoring.